The fund managers in charge of the pension portfolio of Anglo/Dutch consumer products giant Unilever were likened to speeding motorists in their analysis of risk in London#;s High Court on Wednesday.

The judge presiding over the landmark case, Mr Justice Colman, asked Peter Stanyer, head of risk management at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (formerly Mercury Asset Management): “The better the driver, the more justifiable it is for him to go at 90mph than 70mph. Is that your case?”

Unilever is suing Merrill for £130m, alleging that the company was negligent in its management of the pension fund, taking excessive risks and appointing the relatively young and inexperienced Alistair Lennard at its head. The fund lagged a performance benchmark that the two companies agreed on, and the figure is one Unilever believes reflects the fund#;s lost earnings.